Athletes, coaches showing their sensitive sides

February 13, 2005|by MARK KELLER

Aren't athletes supposed to be tough?

That's what they'd have you believe anyway. But has anyone else noticed the trend among pro and college athletes and coaches of showing how sensitive they are to a little negativity?

The most recent example was none other than Maryland coach Gary Williams, who, following the Terrapins' 86-71 victory over Virginia Tech on Tuesday, shot back at some of his team's critics with the statement: "The season is far from over. I thought people learned that last year."

Now, reading that statement is not the same as having heard the statement, which was given immediately after the game and broadcast on the Maryland radio network.


It was obvious that Williams was upset with those - whether fans or media or both - who began to question the validity of the Terrapins following consecutive losses to Clemson and Miami.

Those losses, of course, came on the heels of victories over Duke and Georgia Tech that vaulted the Terps back into the Top 25 and into the national conscience once again.

Maryland was being mentioned on sports radio and TV shows again as a top-tier team. It was listed on the good side of Sports Illustrated's "Who's Hot, Who's Not." Nik Caner-Medley was selected the national player of the week by one prominent online columnist.

But like many others in the sports world these days, Williams apparently only hears when somebody puts his team down.

However, he's been in the game long enough to know that's the way the game works.

If you're playing well and beating upper-echelon teams, the fans are going to be right behind you - as will the media, to a degree.

Stink up the building and the fans and media will tell you point blank: You stink.

The Terps missed their final 13 shots in the first half of the loss to Clemson, which they had beaten 13 straight times.

They lost in overtime to Miami, a school that was not brought into the Atlantic Coast Conference this year because of its men's basketball program.

In short, the Terps stunk in those two games.

I'm all for coaches and players using whatever means necessary to inspire themselves for games. The Terps took the "us against the world" approach in 2001 after losing to a dreadful Florida State team and rode it all the way to the Final Four.

The New England Patriots have lived off the idea that nobody respects them. They have the ability to take the smallest slight - whether against the team as a whole or an individual - and turn it into a major rallying point.

The Patriots were livid that Indianapolis Colts AFC Champion merchandise was being sold online prior to their semifinal round playoff game. No matter that there was also Patriots AFC Champion gear available at the same time ...

Members of the Connecticut women's basketball team felt disrespected last season when they did not earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite having won the championship the previous two seasons. No matter that the seeds are not based on records from previous years ...

The tendency for those players and coaches to go public with their hurt feelings just seems rather odd. Use it for motivation, fine.

But why throw it in the faces of the fans who - even though they're telling you "you stink" - still are behind you 100 percent?

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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